Saturday, September 28, 2013

What Were People Facing When Jesus Came?

The World When Jesus Came

Barbara Henderson

His name was Micah and he was a Zealot. He lived in a time a brutal government control, taxation, and religious persecution.  Micah personally favored armed rebellion against Rome and he was willing to personally join in the war to free Jerusalem from Rome.  Rome had oppressed the Jews religiously by making worship of God Almighty equal with worship of the pagan Roman gods and goddesses.  Worse, Caesar, a simple mortal man filled with greed and drunk with his own power, was supposed to be worshiped as god. Jews were taxed into poverty to fund the evil government which ruled over them.  Micah had had enough.  Whatever the leaders of the Zealots decided would be fine with him.  Micah’s thinking was the same thing as the patriot of the future who said, ‘Give me liberty or give me death!’  (Patrick Henry – Patriot of the United States of America. 

Micah did have a few issues that needed to be set right before he actually went into battle though.  First the leadership of the Zealots was in turmoil.  Every time a promising leader arose that was able to command the allegiance of several bands of Zealots he wound up being crucified on a Roman cross. 

Death by crucifixion, besides being a horrible way of dying, pretty much disqualified the dead person as being the long awaited Messiah.  Micah wanted a leader like David or Gideon to arise and deliver the Jews from Rome.  Since Micah believed the scripture accounts of Israel’s deliverance from enemies far mightier that Israel, he had no problem believing that God could deliver Israel from Rome.  So Micah waited.  He was a true Zealot, and he would one day prove his love for his country even if it required his death.  Although he did hope his death would be in battle because crucifixion was one dreadful way to die.  Whatever happened he prayed he would be brave.  He also kept in mind that when the Most High God was fighting for Israel there were often few casualties in battle.  All he had to do was be sure he was putting his life on the line for a leader like the winners from Israel’s past.  And he prayed when the time came he would fight like the mighty men of valor from the time of Israel’s past glory. 

So Micah waited.  And he listened.  And he prayed to God for help and direction.  After all, Micah reasoned, it would require at least a handful of men to make up a righteous army.  Those men would need to be faithful to God.  Micah knew the non-religious Jews would not be in the army of faithful who defeated Rome.  He knew God would set them free and if murder was what it was going to take then murder it would have to be.  After all, defeating Rome in open battle was possibly impossible even for God.  Micah spent hours each day praying to find the leader God had already chosen.  Micah was keeping an open mind about the pre-qualifications of the leader.  After all, King David had been a lowly shepherd when God called him, so the next great savior might be man of lowly birth as well.  Micah was also willing to admit that every time God had bailed Israel out of bondage to foreign power in the past Israel’s gratitude to God only lasted a short time.  Pretty soon they were back in the same old pattern.  First they tolerated idolatry and other forms of wickedness, then they joined it, and finally they demanded everyone else join them in their debauchery.  Sometimes he wondered if there were enough Zealots watching for the Messiah for God to consider the time right for salvation.  He comforted himself with such doubts by remembering that God would have spared the great cities of Sodom and Gomorrah if there had only been ten righteous.  Surely there were more than that in Jerusalem.  Surely God would send the deliverer.  

And then it happened.  Micah heard the Man from Nazareth.  Micah saw that the help he longed for, the help he wanted for Israel, was not going to come in the temporary form of a leader able to defeat Rome.  Such a victory would only last until the next great power came and crushed Israel again.  Through Jesus Christ Micah saw eternal salvation for himself and any who would believe.  Micah did a one-eighty with his life’s ambition.  He turned from thoughts of an earthly kingdom to thoughts of a heavenly kingdom.  Micah asked himself what he could do for Jesus.   He became a zealot for the Lord……………..AND 2000 years later here we are today asking the same question.  Christians personally know Jesus Christ, His love, His plan for salvation, and His plan for our eternal future in heaven as a joint heir.  What can we do for this world today?  Are we to become zealots for the Lord now the same as when Christ Himself gained followers Jerusalem so long ago?  Ummm …. Well… yes!

If you, like me, are looking at the turmoil in the USA government with sorrow, dismay, frustration, and anger, then you too are wondering what to do.  You are looking for the next deliverer.  I want a man who will rise up on the political scene and fight for literal interpretation of the constitution, for the rights of individuals, for lower taxes, and for smaller government.  I want a man who will actually do or attempt to do the things he says he will do.  That is all I want.  I won’t settle for anything less!  ON THE OTHER HAND…..  I know the Man from Nazareth.  I am supposed to be following His example.  So, I looked at how Jesus handled the corrupt political and religious situations of that time period.  He denounced the wickedness of the religious hierarchy.  If there had been a system for voting leaders in or out of office I am sure Jesus would have voted.  But His focus was on preaching the Gospel – telling people to be reconciled to God and instructing them on exactly how to do it’.  He met the needs of those around Him whether it was feeding the hungry or healing the sick.  He said render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.  We have clear instructions here to pay our taxes.  I don’t think this means we cannot lobby and vote for lower taxes.  That falls within the boundaries of being a good steward with the blessings God has given us.  But government and social problems should never be the focus of our lives.  The life of a Christian should be focused on the solution that is the answer to every problem – which is Jesus Christ.  Through Him peace with God is possible.  That is the ultimate solution and the beginning of the solution to every earthly problem.  Christians must remain vigilant lest the true Gospel of Jesus Christ is reduced to a mere social gospel.  Yes, churches are to be involved in good works, but the first and foremost duty of the church is to take the Good News to the world. 

In the face of looming monstrous new taxes on all but the poorest of the poor, Christ gave us instructions on what to do.
1.     Don’t worry about it.
2.    Seek first the Kingdom of God.
3.    And look to God to supply all our needs according to His riches.

What a friend we have in Jesus!  He not only bears our sins and our griefs, He also takes us on to support.  Salvation is the good news, and the rest is more good news. When we look at the impending financial bankruptcy of the nations of the world we are seeing a real problem.  In Cyprus recently the government bailed itself out by confiscating all the money from private savings accounts.  Can any nation be far behind?  Years ago I was wishing I had enough money to put something away in a KEOG retirement account.  My dad told me to forget about it.  He said the government could not keep their hands off the money people struggle to put away in retirement accounts.  There is way too much money and they won’t be able to let it alone.  I thought dad was wrong or that it was far in the future – like at least 200 years away.  But now it looks much closer.  Currently our government will bail out everything except working families.  BUT….. we have a bigger bail out program with our God.  And, there are no limits on His ability to help us and see us through the bad times.  We have a joy in the Lord that is outside time and space and current circumstances.  This is fundamentally true, but it can be difficult to make the adjustment to joyful living in the middle of circumstances that really are dreadful.  This is where faith comes in.  We can choose to either believe God when He says He will care for us, OR chose worry and anger and frustration over circumstances that are beyond our control.

Philippians 4:5-7 encourages saying,
6. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.’

This is how Christians are to face the uncertain things that are facing Christians around the world right now.  We are to give thanks – probably not for the trying circumstances that are temporary even though they may be life-long.  We can always give thanks to God for the peace that passes all understanding right now, AND for the eternal things of life in heaven with God and the treasures we have laid up there.  Give thanks for the eternal.  Give thanks for God’s daily benefits during trials as well as in times of peace and contentment.  In every situation give thanks and then let God know what your concerns are and ask for help.  There is peace in trusting God that cannot be gained in any other way because it is true peace.  This the hour of Christians to let our lights shine.  Now I will be perfectly honest.  The Christians around the globe being persecuted, tortured, robbed, and murdered for their faith are the ones on the frontlines.  Personally, I thank God that is not happening in the USA at this time.  If the Lord delays His coming, I believe murderous persecution of Christians will go global.  Right now is the time for believers around the world to pray for the lost to be saved and for help for the brethren.  It is also the time to support missionaries. It is time to take personal evangelism seriously.  This doesn’t mean a Christian has the power to bully someone into becoming a Christian.  But, we should live a life that show we are different than the world.  That includes the joy of salvation that is available to all believers. 

The focus of our lives is supposed to be pleasing God through everyday behavior.  We don’t have to go on a quest for the Holy Grail.  Remember the world already has a Savior – it is Jesus Christ.  Each individual Christian is called to do basically the same thing.  We are to obey God.  In obedience to God some issues will resolve themselves.  The ‘love one another as I have loved you’ clause does cover a lot of territory when it comes to getting along with people in many situations.  It does not guarantee a peaceful trouble free life, but it is still the best way to live life.  Stay within the boundaries set by the Bible in your personal behavior.  Give thanks.  Ask God to help you not to sin by fear, worry, ingratitude, or whatever sin troubles you the most. 

Turn the problems and things of the world over to God on a daily basis, or when plagued by worry, frustration, or outright anger turn them over to God on a minute by minute basis. 

When Christians sin by putting worry about the bad news facing the world first in our thoughts, we make matters worse.  We have a heavenly Father who cares and is willing and able to help us.  That should be our focus. 

Remember to pray without ceasing, and to pray for each other.  Be a zealot for Christ. 

God bless you.